Inspiring Britain: Glasgow's cheerful litter-picker on a mission to make a difference to his city

The year of 2017 has been a dark one for news – dominated by terror attacks, uncertainty in world politics and natural disasters, so ITV News has decided it is time to shine a light on some good news, telling the stories of inspirational people in communities across the country.

Eddie Kirkwood has spent much of his life being told what he can’t do.

He is 28 and has Cerebral Palsy. It has confined him to a wheelchair, so people tend to presume it will restrict him in every other way.

Eddie, however, doesn’t see the world like that. He smiles if you ask him about his disability. He tends to be smiling anyway - he’s that kind of guy.

"This is just a shell," he says. "I know I’m in it. But this is just my shell. Desire, commitment, hard work. That’s all you need in life."

And Eddie has plenty of all of that.

I first saw Eddie out picking up litter from his wheelchair in Glasgow's Queen's Park.

It was pouring down with rain and while people walked past with umbrellas he carried on picking up every single piece of rubbish he saw on the path until his bin bag was full. Then he started again.

I was amazed. Who was this guy? I looked into it further and discovered Eddie Kirkwood. I am so glad I did.

"Eight hours a day, seven days a week, for the last eight years, I have been volunteering to pick up litter around Glasgow," he says with a chuckle.

"I take a great deal of pride in my city. Other people see me out picking up rubbish and tell me I’m doing a great thing, but I don’t see it that way. I just want to do my bit so everyone can enjoy clean paths and streets."

Eddie works unpaid seven days a week to clean up litter. Credit: ITV News

He does it all from his wheelchair using a gripper to reach the discarded bottles, crisp packets, and plastic bags that people have thrown over their shoulder.

"Some people have been impressed by what I do and offered to come and help me, but they never show up," he said. "I'm out come rain, snow, or hail, doing this by myself: a one-man band!"

Eddie says his motivation was staying active. He was an adult, trying to live an independent life, and he decided he didn’t want to go on being told by others what he was capable of.

"Each day I’ll fill up a bin bag. On a busy day I’ll fill up three full bags. If you piled up all the rubbish I’ve cleaned up, Glasgow would have its own Eiffel Tower!”

Eddie treats the litter clean-up like a job, but he doesn’t get paid. He has applied for a position with Glasgow City Council but says he hasn’t heard anything back. So he carries on, unpaid, doing everything he can for his community.

"I must have saved the local council a fortune. I know they’ve struggled with cut-backs, so I just want to help them and help Glasgow however I can," he said.

Eddie works hard, then plays hard. He loves football and, in spite of being told by some people that he couldn’t play, he has helped found the Glasgow Gladiators Powerchair Football Club.

Eddie helped found the Gladiators Powerchair Football Club. Credit: ITV News

The Glasgow Gladiators is the only power chair football club in the city, and Eddie is now the club captain, goalkeeper, and official champion fundraiser.

It’s an expensive sport to play. Each specialised sports chair costs more than £5,000.

And so, after getting his own chair for matches, Eddie - true to form - decided to help others.

He started fundraising for the club, raising thousands. Last year he was crowned 'Fundraising Champion' in recognition for his efforts raising the most money of any player in the club.

Eddie meets his Glasgow Rangers hero Kenny Miller. Credit: ITV News

"Eddie is just fantastic," Connor Colhoun, one of Eddie’s teammates, tells me. "Without Eddie’s fundraising, some of the players might not have been able to afford the sports chairs we need. He’s done a lot to start this club, bring players in, and then bring in the funds we need to play."

Eddie says he doesn’t want thanks. "It’s a doddle!" he says. "I’m just a normal guy doing everything I can to make Glasgow a bit better."

The motto in this city is 'People Make Glasgow'.

But it takes people like Eddie to make a difference.

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